Starfighter - Disputed galaxy

pay to play? for a MMORPG? screw you buddy! bring back the MUD! abd they are...

click here to go to the disputed galaxy home site


here's an article from flak mag that you might find interesting


Once upon a time, massively multiplayer online games were the exclusive domain of well-funded professional developers. No longer. Independent developers have gotten into the act, and what their products lack in polish, regular updates and detail, they make up for by being free, charmingly idiosyncratic and less addictive than World of Warcraft.

Which is to say "less addictive than crack cocaine."

Ben Olding's Starfighter: Disputed Galaxy certainly has repeat play value, but if you want — for example — to get work done from home instead of sallying forth to mine asteroids and go bounty hunting, it's easy enough to break away.

In terms of pure mechanics, the game is very similar in design to the classic Star Control series. You have a starship. You cruise around the galaxy using the arrow keys to accelerate and turn, meeting friendly and hostile ships. In the case of the latter, you close in, maintain distance, or run away based on how you're feeling about the competition. You launch missiles, lock and fire lasers, raise shields, and hyperwarp across the galaxy. It's stock sci-fi space combat, but it's satisfyingly done.

For a home-baked job, the game is a marvel. Combat is convincing and often entertaining. There are little "flashbulb moments" that make it all worthwhile; you're ambushed by five alien fighters, for instance. Rather than running, you decide to take them on. You close in on them, firing missiles as you approach. One of the fighters explodes, but as you approach laser range, they swat you with an EMP torpedo that knocks out your controls for 15 seconds. Drifting, you are at the mercy of the fighters, which cluster around you peppering your ship with nasty things. Then your systems come back online, just before your shield fails. You activate your proximity blast weapon, and WHAM, all four remaining fighters are toast! WOO!

By contrast, Starfighter's RPG aspect is repetitive and unsatisfying. You go to one of the many friendly space stations and pick from a list of mission types that include "courier" (haul something from one sector to another), "clearance" (kill a bunch of hostile stuff to empty out a sector), or "assassination" (kill a specific ship or group of similar ships). Complete a mission, win a bounty. It's easy to select missions that are a cakewalk, and once you've done one mission of a given type, you've basically done them all.

Bounties can be used to buy new kinds of ships, purchase new weapons, recharge your hyperspace capacitor or replenish your stock of 10 lives. After a while, however, the money starts to fade as an inducement to kick ass. There is no apparent direct relationship between "more expensive ship" and "better ship."

This is because Starfighter's spaceships come in three speed/maneuverability classes: "slow," "slower," and "commemorative paperweight." Down at the paperweight end of things, you can carry a bunch of different weapons, or schlep tons of ore mined from asteroids. On the downside, if you need to turn around to face a rapidly approaching bad guy, it can easily take 27 minutes.

So it's relatively easy to get a decent (i.e. somewhat manueverable) ship, load it up with choice weapons, and never really need cash again. Kills are a (slightly) different matter. Kill an enemy ship, get a "kill." Get enough kills and you move up in rank, which feels good. Move up in rank enough — probably a good 30 hours of largely unrewarding play — and you can do things like starting a multi-player "gang" of ships.

Oh, yeah: Starfighter is multiplayer. This means when you go to certain sectors, 12-year-olds who have logged 500 hours with the game will instantly wipe you out with weapons such as "plasma relays." Personally, I find that experience unsatisfying, and I stick to the "co-op," or, even better, "single player" sectors.

On Kongregate, the innovative free game sharing site that houses Starfighter, the multiplayer aspect also shines in the game's "chat" room. If you look to the right of the game board, you can read the procedings of a chat channel. Imagine, if you will, that Voltaire, Mark Twain, Truman Capote, Calvin Trillin and Dorothy Parker all had retarded nephews. Then imagine all of these nephews gathered in one place to converse about which sector might or might not make a good meeting place, and also about fucking one another's mothers.

That is what the Starfighter chat is like. Attached to this article is a representative screenshot of in-game chat to give you a sense of what it's like to watch the star gladiators of the future share their philosophical insights.

A recent evening's gaming was accompanied by a discussion of world affairs undertaken by two players based in Scotland, and two based in the US. The Scots seemed to be getting the best of the Yanks. The former pointed out that the US was a major source of pollution and international unrest. It was also observed that Americans are very very fat. The best the Americans could muster was to say that Scotland, as a country, was "gay," a claim repeated many times with many different incremental adjustments to the language. It seemed the US was beaten for sure, until one of the Americans produced an astonishing factual trump card: "all peple in sctoland SPEAK GAYLIC!!!"

This ingenious rhetorical maneuver left the Scots temporarily at a loss for words. Ultimately, the confrontation was something of a draw.

You may get tempted to jump into the conversation and stride like a collossus among pygmies. I once considered it, but wargamed the likely results and came up with the following:

jrnorton23: has anyone else noticed that even though the warship is one of the most expensive human ships, it turns like a bowl of paving stones?

dacount: hey jr

jrnorton23: hello

dacount: I fuc.ked yr mom last night

jrnorton23: oh?

dacount: hard with my dikk

starhnter: come to sector s-2-10 quick!!!

jrnorton23: well, actually, I have interesting news on that front

jrnorton23: a courier just arrived from the county records office

dacount: fuc.k u jr

jrnorton23: and it turns out that your real birth mother is MY mother!

jrnorton23: we're half brothers!

dacount: suk a dikk

jrnorton23: so when you thought you were showing me up by sleeping with my mom, you were actually engaging in an incestuous union

dacount: she likked it when

starhnter: theres like 8 aliens hre

dacount: my dikk was on her

jrnorton23: your report lacks credibility

Conversational problems notwithstanding — and you can hardly blame the game for the players — Starfighter is a smoothly executed and often entertaining effort that — with a little work — could be quite an excellent online diversion. The game's main shortcoming is common for DIY and professional ventures alike: the computing is good, but the writing and storytelling is lacking.

The "galaxy" disputed in the game is very uniform; every space station looks like every other space station, and each sells precisely the same stuff for the same prices. Other than amount of ore, every asteroid is like every other asteroid, and the two warring forces — "humans" and "aliens" — have no back story, no ideology, no color behind them. It's faceless entertainment, and while it suceeds as a relaxing online action platform, it fails almost completely as an RPG, a generator of stories.

But that's OK. If Starfighter can come up with a free game this good, someone else can fill in the storytelling elements of this game (or another) and make something far better. Hmm. Perhaps too much better.

— James Norton (